The Chilean Blueberry Committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX), supported by ProChile, is organising its ﬁrst trade mission dedicated to blueberries, visiting India and Dubai ahead of its participation at Asia Fruit Logistica 2017.
Between 30 August and 4 September, members of The Chilean Blueberry Committee will travel to New Delhi, Mumbai and Dubai for meetings with potential buyers and logistics service providers to promote Chilean fresh blueberry exports backed by a new marketing programme.
Although household penetration for fresh blueberries remains low in both India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Chile has recently signed a commercial agreement with India aimed at helping facilitate greater blueberry and avocado exports to the country.
Charif Christian Carvajal, ASOEX Marketing Director for Europe and Asia, together with the Andrés Armstrong, the Chilean Blueberry Committee’s executive director, will lead the delegation, which includes a group of six grower-exporters.
“The principal objective is to generate new contacts with importers, distributors and retail chains, and to spread the word about the new export agreement between Chile and India,” said Armstrong. “This type of trade mission is precisely one of the reasons why the Chilean Blueberry Committee exists. The Committee works to open up new markets, diversify channels and drive export opportunities. During the trip we will raise awareness of Chilean blueberries, their characteristics and availability.”
The delegation will host B2B meetings with importers, distributors and retailers, in addition to visiting the major wholesale markets, retail chains, port facilities and logistical platforms in both India and Dubai. Special trade seminars will also take place in India with the support of ProChile’s local oﬃce to highlight to buyers the opportunities, challenges and benefits of buying fruits from Chile.
The trade mission will focus on communicating three key messages, said Carvajal. “Firstly, Chile’s supply season from October to March, which complements India and Dubai’s existing blueberry import programmes from mainly the US and Canada,” he explained.
“Secondly, Chile’s experience of complying with market regulations and customer requests in its role as the world’s leading exporter of fresh blueberries. And thirdly, Chile’s commitment to growing the market in both India and Dubai where we appreciate blueberries are not a traditional product and will require active promotional campaigns in retail outlets and foodservice channels to help importers and distributors better sell the fruit.”
The delegation will also draw attention to the new blueberry varieties being produced by Chilean growers that can travel further and produce ﬁrmer, slightly larger fruit that delivers a sweeter eating experience.
With a mega market of 1.3 billion people and beneﬁts from a growing economy, India has an expanding middle class and developing retail and foodservice industries. As of this year, Chilean blueberries entering India will be facilitated by a new commercial agreement between the two nations, following almost a decade of negotiations.
“India has never been a priority market for Chilean blueberries because we’ve never had unrestricted access before,” explained Armstrong. “Now we have the green light to export to India, we hope to send the ﬁrst blueberries this coming season (2017-18), following our trade mission.”
There are important opportunities for Chilean blueberries in India, according to Carolina Vasquez, ProChile director in New Delhi. “Consumers, both in rural and urban parts of India, continue to prefer fresh products,” she said. “For berries, and blueberries in particular, we see growth opportunities in the medium term since the fruit is fairly new to the market.”
While the potential in India is important, Vasquez noted the challenges facing the market must be taken into account, particularly cold chain logistics. “Until a few years ago, deficiencies were evident in the cool chain,” she said. “But since then the sector has taken stock of the situation and put increasing eﬀorts into ﬁnding alternatives and making improvements.”
The UAE represents a market of 9.2 million people. It continues to present great potential for Chilean fruits due to its high dependence on imported foods (mainly perishables like fresh fruit) and the growth of its tourism sector. Furthermore, its business and ﬁnancial capital Dubai remains a vital re-export hub, serving as a gateway to the entire Middle East, as well as India and Pakistan.
“Chile has more than 25 years’ experience of exporting fresh fruit to the UAE, from where we gain access to 200 million consumers,” explained Sharif Chacoﬀ, commercial attaché of ProChile in the UAE. “The trade is worth over US$93 million and has grown by 4% per annum in the last 10 years.” In 2016 alone, Chilean fruit exports to the UAE rose by 12%. During the same year, tourism totalled 15.2 million people – a ﬁgure which could reach up to 20 million by 2020.
However, Chacoﬀ added there remained signiﬁcant important logistical challenges to be overcome. “Due to the absence of direct sea routes, shipments from Chile take 40-45 days, which limits the varieties that can reach this region,” he said. “The consolidation of cargo in charter boats could be one solution, shortening the transit time by 10 days. As for airfreight, the addition of a stop in Chile by Qatar Airways, scheduled for January 2018, will beneﬁt cherries and berries.”